STARTREK.COM. Who are you and where are you from?
Andrew Robinson. I'm Andy Robinson and originally I'm from New York and New England. My parents moved around a lot when I was a kid.
Q. When did you start acting?
AR. My career started when I got a Fulbright Scholarship which was an extraordinary gift from the U.S. government … thank you very much … and it was that year while I was … it was that year that I decided … this is what I want to do for a living. I'd done high school and college drama, but I didn't really think … now this was in the late 50's, early 60's … that this was something I could make a living at. It was like a rarified profession, but when I got that Fulbright, that sort of brought it down to earth for me and I never looked back.
Q. How did playing the killer in "Dirty Harry” affect your career?
AR. It gave me a career and it effectively ended a certain part of my career at the same time … it ended a film career because of film and the nature of film and the big screen and the power of the image on the big screen. It has such an effect on people. In the business, once you get associated with a character as defining and as strong as the "Scorpio” killer. People don't want to hire you for the good guy, for the poet, for the dad, for the sympathetic character. And therefore they'll hire you for the heavy, but even then, I was so identified with that one particular heavy because that particular kind of psychopathic killer was the first of it's kind really. You had Richard Bismark, harbingers of that character, but that was really the first post-modern psycho-killer with no motivation, no history, no background; just out there doing unspeakable things. So the only thing I got offered was more of that. So when I started turning down those, because there are only so many of those the human psyche and nervous system can take. Then that was it. And I went back to theater. And thank god there was television.
Q. How did you get involved with Star Trek?
AR. I got the job on Deep Space Nine because I didn't get Odo. And it came down to 3 people. Gerrit Graham who later did lots of Star Trek, obviously Rene Auberjonois, and myself, but they liked my audition a lot for Odo so they asked me back for Garak and the irony is that I didn't want to go back. They've already seen me several times for Odo. What do they want to see me this time for. And it was my wife who convinced me to go to the audition. Thank God!
Q. Did you know that Garak was going to be a recurring character?
AR. They wanted a relationship for the Dr. Bashir character. It was the first season and they were trying to fit him into the flow of the show. They thought at the beginning that this would be an interesting relationship for Bashir, but they weren't going to go further with it if it didn't work out between the two characters, if there wasn't a certain amount of chemistry. From the moment we started acting together, that was no longer an issue. They loved the stuff between Sid and I.
Q. Tell us about the first time you wore the costume.
AR. The only story that really stays with me in my experience with Deep Space 9 is the very first time they put the makeup on me. I'm claustrophobic and the makeup consists of 7 prosthetic pieces plus a paint job that would make Earl Schieb envious plus the costume that is built on the material that you make upholstery. Ah – so it doesn't breathe. Nothing breathes. In a sense it's like putting you in a mobile coffin. They put it on me and I really had an attack. I thought … I'm not going to be able to do this. I don't know how I can get out of this. I was really going to call my agent and say, "Listen you gotta get me out of this because this is psychically not possible. I looked in the mirror and I saw this creature staring back at me and I thought this is extraordinary. I have never seen anything like this. This is an actor's dream to be able to do a character the inside of a character that looks like this. The claustrophobia went away. I never really had another attack for the 7 years though there were a couple of long days .. you know one of the 16-18 hour Star Trek days that occasionally happen where it got pretty old.
Q. Did you like the way Garak developed?
AR. The beautiful thing about doing Garak was how the writers increasingly fell in love with the character and they told me that every time there was an episode that included Garak that sort of quickened their juices and they wrote beautifully for me. They also picked up on business that I would come up with, behavior, and amplifying that and in the next script I would see a piece of business or behavior that I had pulled out in the previous episode.
Q. How would you describe Cardassians?
AR. Reptilian. Using the human model, the brain model, Cardassians really work from their reptilian brain. I'm not making a value judgment about that. We all have that. Human beings have what is called a tripartite brain. There are 3 parts to our brain; the oldest part of our brain is the reptilian brain. So don't cast any aspersions about a 1/3 of my brain and I'm a great defender of Cardassians so there's a lot to be said about the reptilian brain. Reptilian brain knows what boundaries are. Reptilian brain knows how to take care of itself so that the species survive. Now having said that, there are downsides to the Reptilian brain knows what boundaries are. The reptilian brain knows how to take care of itself in order that the species survive. Now, having said that, there are downsides to the reptilian brain. And the Cardassians, it's true, have a lot of that. You know, the militarism, and the brutality, which the occupation of Bajor is on a level with anything that the Germans did with World War II. That being said (laughs) the positive things – the trains ran on time, the streets are clean (laughs).
Q. Do you have a favorite episode?
AR. Yeah. There's one episode called "The Wire” where Garak is – being an operative, a secret agent within the Obsidian Order – has this mechanism that they call a wire placed in his brain. Basically, what it is simply is that if he's ever caught, and if he's tortured, this wire would then trip off the endorphins that would transmute the pain of the torture into pleasure. Well, Garak then gets addicted to this, the way any addict would become addicted to a drug, and basically Bashir saves his life and sees him through a cold-turkey process. But in that process, Garak is emotionally at the edge, and is spewing forth all these variations of stories and so forth. No one knows the truth, which story is true, but that's Garak. No one ever knows. It was a fabulous episode, and it was beautifully written by this guy, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who wrote for several years for the show. The other episodes that I really liked a lot – there was a two-parter, where Odo and Garak set out to find Enabran Tain, who was the head of the Obsidian Order, and who eventually turns out to be Garak's father. "Improbable Cause” and … I can't remember the name of the other one. It's a two-parter I really liked a lot. The "Doctor Bashir, I presume”, the James Bond spoof that we did, that was a lot of fun. It was hellacious to film, because I probably spent more hours in that makeup on that show than any other show. The show was a bear. They really were trying to make a James Bond movie, but it was an enormous amount of fun. And I thought that Winrich Kolbe, the director, did a wonderful job on it. Unfortunately, we ran afoul of the James Bond people, and we were going to do a lot of those, but that was the one and only. [clip from "Our Man Bashir”]
Q. How did the book "A Stitch in Time” come about?
AR. A diary I started keeping, as if Garak were keeping a diary – it's all in the first person. And it happened because when I started going to conventions, I thought I wanted to do more than just answer questions about how long it takes to put on the makeup, and so forth. And so I started reading entries from the diary. The people at the conventions really enjoyed it, and this one guy, once, at a convention, David George, who co-wrote a book with Armin Shimerman about Quark (I think The 34th Rule or something like that). And David very kindly suggested, "You know, you should gather this material, contact the people at Pocket Books, and see if they'd be interested in turning this into a book.” So I did, and they were very enthusiastic about it.